Surprisingly, the topic that I find most difficult to discuss with my children is not sex, it is drugs.
The other night we were playing Scrabble and the conversation with the BoyChild somehow turned to the subject of recreational drugs, and specifically, my youthful experimentation with them. Considering how open I am about the topic of sex and relationships, it’s odd how acutely uncomfortable I was talking about those experiences. Maybe it is because I was only a little older than he was when I started to experiment with them, and he has such a keen curiosity about them that I can imagine, given the opportunity, he will try them as well.
But I was lucky, the one drug I could have become addicted to, the one that I really liked, I couldn’t indulge in because it made me sneeze (drug dealers get a bit pissy when you sneeze their product all over the room.) By the time I turned 16, I’d smoked pot, snorted cocaine, taken methamphetamines and dropped acid–and decided I really didn’t like the effects drugs had on me. Pot made me paranoid and stupid, cocaine, though I loved it, made me sneeze (luckily I was just scared enough not to take the oh-so-thoughtful offer from one kind soul at a party to teach me to shoot the damn stuff or to smoke it with heroin), speed made me shaky and sick, and acid just scared the fuck outta me.
My boyfriend, the one that introduced me to drugs in the first place, wasn’t so lucky, and drugs destroyed him.
Those were some crazy days, and I know that a major factor in me coming out unscathed is that I don’t seem to have an addictive personality…even at the height of things, with the boyfriend and his brother drug-running and taking me along for “fun,” and me partaking in a lot of it, it never really affected me. I could take it or leave it, and my main goal was still to stay in high school, get good grades, and one day move away from all of it and out of my boyfriend’s reach–a goal I achieved, literally walking away from him and that life the day I turned 18. When I look at what happened to that crowd after I escaped, his brother killed in a drug bust in Tahoe, my ex-boyfriend jailed, lives ruined and lost, I am incredibly thankful to whatever ghost was watching over me (perhaps my father, who had passed away recently.) Something kept me from accidental death, from the agony of addiction, from the misery that my life easily could have been. But honestly? I don’t regret trying the drugs in the first place. Like all things, they were an experience, one that shaped me, made me who I am and shaped my view of the world around me, and frankly, has kept me safe from getting involved in other such situations again.
So why am I so uneasy talking about the subject with my son? Clearly I am afraid admitting to my own experimentation will make him think about experimenting himself; that admitting to my own experimentation will give him the impression that I am giving tacit approval for him to do so as well, which I am not. As I said, I was lucky–very, very lucky–that things didn’t end up a whole lot worse for me. They could have, and did for so many other people.
But I don’t feel the same about talking to him about sex: I don’t think that answering his questions about sex without embarrassment or making him embarrassed, will make him have sex, or make him think I approve of him doing so before he is emotionally mature enough to accept the consequences of becoming sexually active. I know that he will probably have sex whether or not we talk about it. And that’s why I do talk about it, because when he chooses to have sex, or start making life choices about how he wants to live and love, I want him to be making informed choices.
Perhaps it is that, on some level, I am more shamed at having done drugs than I am at having had sex. Sexual desire and experimentation is natural and inevitable, drug use is not. Drug addiction is a dirty, ugly business, a business I saw firsthand. I don’t ever want him to experience that. But in the end, as with all of the life choices he will have to make, these are his choices to make. And I would much rather those choices be informed choices.
Looks like he and I need to have a heart-to-heart this weekend.